Before You Were Born
The Genealogy Homepage of Lonnie C. Hendrix
My purpose is to share the fruits of a lifelong quest for my roots, the principles that have guided my efforts and the things that I have learned along the way with other interested individuals. I am open to constructive criticism, different opinions and corrections. As I have always sought to verify what I include in my own database, I advise everyone who chooses to use my data to do the same.
The link to my GEDCOM posted at RootsWeb:
Another link to my GEDCOM:
A link to another GEDCOM posted at RootsWeb:
The link to purchase a copy of the book Before You Were Born:
The link to a slide presentation on my family:
A link to my blog, God cannot be contained:
As my personal computer crashed in 2011, my "frost" GEDCOM posted at RootsWeb as part of the WorldConnect Project will no longer be updated on a regular basis. Those who wish to see the most up-to-date information available to me should focus on my GEDCOM posted as "branches," or the one posted at Family Tree Guide.
A Word About Surnames
The following information about the origin and meanings of surnames was taken from Origin of Surnames by Kathi Reid (http://www.searchforancestors.com/surnames/origin) and Surname Origins, Their Source and Significations by C. Bardsley (http://surname-origins.com/):
I. Patronymic, or those surnames derived from the first name of a male ancestor are probably the most common (e.g. Adams, Allen, Daniel, Ellis, Hendrix, McAnally, O'Brien, Williams)
II. Those surnames associated with one's family living near a particular place or location (e.g. Camp, Downs, Hill, Howland, Rumsey, Rutledge, Westlake, Woodhall)
III. Those surnames which refer to the occupation or social status of one's ancestor (e.g. Butler, Carter, Marshall, Miller, Sheppard, Smith, Woolman)
IV. Nicknames which describe an ancestor's physical appearance or personality (e.g. Little, Sharp)
It should also be noted that the use and spelling of surnames has evolved over many centuries. Hence, the way that a particular surname appears in our day and age is probably not the way that it appeared at any given time in the past. Many of our ancestors were illiterate or only semi-literate, which only added to the variability and uniqueness of their family names. In fact, members of the same family often arrived at very different versions of the same surname. In most cases, spellings were not settled until the Late Nineteenth or Early Twentieth Centuries.
European surnames often contain clues in their prefixes and suffixes as to the family's place of origin. For instance, an O', Mc or Mac indicates a Celtic place of origin (Ireland/Scotland), and the prefix means the "son/descendant of." Likewise, the suffix son, sen, datter, dotter or dottir indicates a Scandinavian heritage (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), and means the "son/daughter of." In former times, the prefix "Fitz" was often used to denote the same thing in English. The prefix d' or di' points to the same thing in Italian. The suffix Van indicates a Dutch background and means "from/of." A "ck" or "ch" attached to the end of a name might indicate a Germanic background. In other words, surnames are like other words among the languages of the earth - they often include lettering or components that give clues about the language and country where they were originally used. However, in this connection, it should also be noted that powerful incentives existed for immigrants to the United States to assimilate into the culture of their new country. Hence, many of them quickly "Anglicized" their family names to blend in better with their neighbors.
A Word About Documentation
It was never my intent to produce a scholarly work about my family. However, any review of the database will reveal an attempt on my part to document the sources of the information contained therein. As my research began prior to any formal training in historical or genealogical research, that documentation will not always appear complete—I apologize for any inconvenience this may present for other researchers, none was intended. In fact, I have attempted to retrace my steps and be as transparent as circumstances and my own memory permit in this regard. Moreover, I have continued to try to improve my citations of those sources within the context of my source list.
The database includes personal interviews, personal correspondence, official documents (birth, military, marriage and death), obituaries, court records, census records, tombstones, pictures, DNA testing and both the published and unpublished research of others. In the case of census records, particular attention should be paid to location information as this is very often not repeated in the notes about the person to whom the citation belongs.
As the database is a work in progress, changes in both the scope and content of the GEDCOM should be anticipated and expected. The database does not reflect everything I know about these people, but the sources cited do encompass most of what I know about them. I am also willing to share this additional information with interested individuals who wish to contact me.
Some of the people who review my GEDCOM will wonder why I have chosen to speculate about various ancestral lines. Some genealogists will not post anything that they have not "proven" with what they consider solid documentation. I have chosen a different path because of the nature of genealogical research. Anyone who has studied his/her ancestry for any length of time will understand that "facts" sometimes change when more information on the subject at hand comes to light. Moreover, most researchers begin with an hypothesis or a theory and attempt to prove or disprove it. I have found it very useful to share one's thinking with other researchers - the old "two (or more) heads are better than one" rule. Another researcher may have evidence to substantiate or refute what I have proposed. They may have a piece of the puzzle that has never made sense to them in any other context before and now fits the speculation that has been published. Even so, a word of caution is in order: Speculation is NOT established fact. It is only another tool this researcher uses to pursue a better understanding - a clearer picture of our past.
Interest in Genealogy and History
For many people today, the question is not “Why study genealogy?” The question is “Why would ANYONE want to waste their time in the past?” We have to get to work or find a job, get the kids to school, go shopping, prepare a meal and get ready to party this weekend. Moreover, on the world scene, there are wars raging and social, political, religious, economic and environmental issues to worry about. Who has time for the past when we have so much on our plates in the present? The average Joe and Jane are so caught up in the present moment that they have very little time to think about anything else. Even so, when they do permit themselves the luxury of thinking about anything but the here and now, it is to think about the future: “Will I be able to afford the house or car that I want? How can I save enough money for the kids to attend college or for my own retirement?” For most of the people in today’s society, the past simply does not exist in their reality.
I believe this is unfortunate because it severely distorts our perspectives of the present and future and consequently hinders our judgment about how to conduct our lives in the here and now or plan for the future. Cicero said, “To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain always a child.” He equated ignorance of the past with immaturity in the present and a perpetual naivety regarding the future. In short, Cicero understood that who we are, our present circumstances and the directions we are moving toward the future are profoundly shaped and influenced by where we have been – our past. He considered an understanding of the past essential to being able to successfully navigate in the present and in charting our future course.
For me, the study of the past strikes at the heart of the most fundamental questions we can ask ourselves: Who am I? How did I get here? Where am I going? What is the purpose for my existence? The past has helped to shape and define our identity – who we are. The past can provide us with answers about our origins – from whence we came. Interestingly enough, the past can also help to predict the future course of events, or at least provide us with some valuable insights as to the choices we might make about our future. Finally, the study of our collective and individual past can provide us with some profound insights into our very purpose for being here – the reason we exist at all.
First, a strong sense of identity is almost universally recognized and acknowledged as one of the foundational elements of a sound psyche and successful life. In the Sixties and Seventies, individuals were often portrayed as being on a quest to “find” him or herself – to achieve an understanding of their own state of being. In modern times, we refer to people as having an “identity crisis”. I believe this phenomenon is a consequence of our obsession with the present. There is little awareness of context – of how we fit into the bigger picture.
Who we are as individuals is the product of nature and nurture. Scientists and psychologists debate the degree to which our individual identities are influenced by each of these forces, but everyone can agree that both of these forces are largely the products of our past. We derive our DNA from our ancestors. The way we look (skin, hair and eye color) is determined by the genes we have received from our parents and grandparents. We inherit genetic predispositions for certain diseases and health conditions from our ancestors. Moreover, who we are is influenced by the environment in which we are raised. Our family, friends and society all shape the person we become. Likewise, all of these were shaped by the past. Philosophy, religion, culture, and politics are all the products of our forefather’s thinking and activities.
In discussing the past’s role in defining our identity, I am reminded of the country song entitled “Who I Am”. The lyrics are: “I am Rosemary’s granddaughter, the spitting image of my father, and when the day is done my Momma’s still my biggest fan. Sometimes I’m clueless and I’m clumsy, but I’ve got friends who love me, and they know just where I stand. It’s all a part of me, and that’s who I am.” As a consequence of this awareness, the songster goes on to declare: “If I live to be a hundred and never see the seven wonders, that’ll be alright. If I don’t make it to the big leagues, if I never win a Grammy, I’m gonna be just fine ‘cause I know exactly who I am.” Our past, individual and collective, genealogical and historical, helps us to understand exactly who we are.
The past is also the place of beginnings, the source of the here and now, and the foundation on which the future will be built. The study of history and genealogy is akin to looking through a window at the landscape of our origins. Everything in creation has a beginning, and there is a cause for every effect.
There is a story behind everything and everybody. There is a reason why you are called by the name that you recognize as your own. There is a reason why you live where you live. There is a reason why the society you live in is largely Christian instead of predominantly Moslem or Buddhist. There is a reason why you speak English instead of German, French or Spanish. There is a reason why you live under a democratic form of government instead of a monarchy or dictatorship. There is a story behind everything about you and the world of which you are a part.
Moreover, every single one of those stories is unfinished – the story continues to unfold. Everything is a work in progress. An egg and a sperm unite and grow into an embryo, which develops into a fetus and is eventually born as a baby. The baby grows into a toddler, then a teenager, and finally becomes an adult. The adult marries and another child is conceived. Life produces more life. In fact, life always seeks to perpetuate itself.
Hence, it is theoretically possible to trace this cycle back to a first set of parents – a beginning. For a Christian, those parents would be Adam and Eve. Moreover, the Bible records that Adam “was the son of God” (Luke 3:38). We also read in scripture that Adam and Eve left their original home in the Garden of Eden, and that they and their offspring eventually spread out and populated the earth (Genesis 3:23-24, 11:8). For the student of human genetics and evolution, those first Homo sapiens lived somewhere in Africa, and their descendants eventually spread out and populated the earth. Now that is interesting – both scenarios conclude that we are all ultimately related to each other, that we share a common ancestor. John Donne said: “all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…” (Meditations XVII). He went on to say, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” (Meditations XVII) Even a cursory examination of genealogy and history will demonstrate the absolute truth of this interconnectedness and shared experience.
Thus, just as we have shared in a common origin, we will all share in a common end. We will all die someday. We read in scripture that “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). Even Jesus Christ was not exempted from this appointment. Science has also confirmed the universality of this phenomenon among humans (and other living things). This also provides us with an important link to our ancestors and our past. William Knox wrote:
So the multitude goes – like the flower or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes – even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.
For we are the same that our fathers have been;
We see the same sights that our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, we feel the same sun,
And run the same course that our fathers have run.
The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging, they also would cling –
But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing. (Mortality)
Can we observe these things and continue to maintain that we have nothing to learn from the past?
In the book of Ecclesiastes, we read: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look, this is something new?’ It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11) George Santyana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We see this phenomenon at work down through the ages – in the fall of empire after empire and war after war. However, we also see this pattern repeated in individual families. The child who is abused often grows up to abuse his/her own children. The child who is the product of divorce grows up to marry and obtain his/her own divorce. Perhaps we can begin to see that the past does have something to teach us?
In comprehending that past generations faced many of the same challenges that face us today, our problems gain perspective and context. We have the opportunity to contemplate the things that worked and the things that failed as we decide among the choices currently before us. Our past then becomes a guide and a light to our future.
In his Farewell Address to the nation, George Washington warned against “the spirit of party” – the tendency of people to gather into groups to advance certain interests and ideas against other interests and ideas. Washington’s knowledge of history and his own past experiences in commanding the army and dealing with congress alerted him to the danger this presented to the republic’s future. Looking forward, he warned:
It is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense
value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness;
that you should cherish a cordial, habitual and immovable attachment to it
…discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in
any event be abandoned, and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning
of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest … In
contemplating the causes which may disturb our union, it occurs as a
matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished
for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations: Northern and
Southern; Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to
excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views.
In applying the past to charting a course for the future, Washington was able to discern potential problems for the country he loved. Moreover, subsequent events (the American Civil War, 1861-1865) demonstrated that he was right to be concerned about this becoming a serious problem. How many thousands of lives might have been saved if his countrymen had heeded his warning?
Yet, when Abraham Lincoln was faced with the dissolution of the Union, he also turned to past experiences and predicted its survival. In his First Inaugural Address, Lincoln said, “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” He too was right – the “chorus of the Union” did indeed rise again, and the nation he loved was preserved.
At the end of the First World War, the victors had revenge at the top of their agendas and sought to severely punish Germany for its role in instigating hostilities. They sought to humiliate Germany by making it pay for war damages and restricting its future military potential. The result was an embittered Germany that would work to reverse those indignities. In short, the consequence was Adolf Hitler and the Second World War. Even so, by the end of that conflict, the Allies had learned a lesson from the past. They did not seek to punish and humiliate Germany further. Instead, America sought to help and rebuild the defeated nation (at least the part that they and their allies controlled). The result was a democratic, stable and prosperous friend and ally.
The evidence of the past is all around us. In observing and studying what our forefathers left behind, we are connected to them. We can also take comfort in knowing the things that they endured as we go about our own work. The poet Robert Frost wrote a poem that I think beautifully illustrates this important function of our predecessors. In the poem, the narrator has gone to a field to turn some hay that had been cut by someone else earlier in the day. In his Tuft of Flowers, Frost wrote:
I went to turn the grass once after one
Who moved it in the dew before the sun.
The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.
I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.
But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been, - alone,
‘As all must be,’ I said within my heart
‘Whether they work together or apart’
But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,
Seeking with memories grown dim o’er night
Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.
And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.
And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.
I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;
But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,
A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.
The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,
Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.
The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,
That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,
And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;
But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;
And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.
‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart,
‘Whether they work together or apart.’
To examine the evidence of past lives – the stories and things that people leave behind them when they die – is to come to know and communicate with those people. We learn and benefit from their experiences and accomplishments. Moreover, although the conversation at times may seem one-sided, we know that they have also thought about us. We know this because we think about the future sometimes.
Don’t we try to imagine what the future, even the distant future, will be like? J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:
I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see…
I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,
And people who will see a world that I shall never know.
As we grow older and accumulate memories, we become more conscious of the passage of time. As our lives progress, most of us will witness the births of our own children/grandchildren, and then the deaths of grandparents/parents. The evidence of our own life forces us to contemplate our own mortality, and we begin to wonder about a future without us. We begin to understand that we are part of a continuum – an ever unfolding story.
Thus, when we begin to think in these terms, we develop a deeper appreciation of the meaning of the past, and its very personal relevance to ourselves. If you will approach the study in this way, the past will cease to appear as a dry and impersonal collection of pictures, dates and facts. You will no longer be wasting time on things dead and buried – you will be studying LIFE, YOUR LIFE!
"In Sara's daughter, this triumphantly alive little person that Sara's body had made, lay the answer to the greatest mystery of all - the mystery of death, and what came after. How obvious it was. Death was nothing, because there was no death. By the simple fact of Kate's existence, Sara was joined to something eternal. To have a child was to receive the gift of true immortality - not time stopped, as it had stopped in Amy, but time continuing and everlasting." from The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Relationship Calculator for Brittany and Emily Hendrix
Daughters of Lonnie Hendrix
Arthur Adams (Professional Genealogist) 4th Cousin, 5 times removed
John Adams (2nd President of the U.S.A.) 4th Cousin, 9 times removed
Jedediah Allen (Early American Settler) 10th Great Grandfather
Eleanor of Aquitaine (Queen of England) 28th Great Grandmother
Wilfredo I (Count of Barcelona) 35th Great Grandfather
Humphrey Bogart (American Actor) 9th Cousin, 4 times removed
Leo VI (Emperor of Byzantium) 37th Great Grandfather
Robert Brassieur (Early Huguenot Settler) 11th Great Grandfather
George W. Bush (43rd President of the U.S.A.) 5th Cousin, 1 time removed
Hugh Capet (King of France) 33 Great Grandfather
Sihtric (Viking King of Dublin, Ireland) 33rd Great Grandfather
Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet) 7th Cousin, 6 times removed
Charlemagne (King of France, Emperor) 42nd Great Grandfather
Henry the Fowler (King of Germany) 34th Great Grandfather
Victoria Hanover (Queen of Britain) 15th Cousin, 6 times removed
William Selby Harney (U.S. General) 5th Great Uncle
William H. Harrison (9th U.S. President) 14th Cousin, 9 times removed
John Howland (Mayflower Pilgrim) 11th Great Uncle
Stephen I (King of Hungary) 34th Great Grandfather
Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S. President) 11th Cousin, 12 times removed
Vladimir I (Grand Prince of Kiev) 33rd Great Grandfather
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Poet) 7th Cousin, 6 times removed
Kenneth McAlpin (King of Scotland) 37th Great Grandfather
John Marshall (Chief Justice Supreme Ct.) 2nd Cousin, 9 times removed
Clovis I (Merovingian King of France) 53rd Great Grandfather
Brian Boru (King of Munster & Ireland) 34th Great Grandfather
Richard M. Nixon (37th U.S. President) 7th Cousin, 3 times removed
William of Normandy (King of England) 30th Great Grandfather
Barack Obama (44th U.S. President) 9th Cousin/12th Cousin
Henry II Plantagenet (King of England) 27th Great Grandfather
Pocahontas (12th Great Aunt)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd U.S. President) 8th Cousin, 5 times removed
James Rumsey (American Inventor) 7th Great Grandfather
Winston Churchill-Spencer (British P.M.) 8th Cousin, 4 times removed
None of these relationships depend on the Rowland Ellis or Robert Daniell lines of descent.
OUR FAMILY IN WAR
REVOLUTIONARY WAR (1775-1783)
Thomas Camp Charles Hobson James RumseyRobert Dickey Peter Kivett David McAnally
Jenethan Harney Daniel McMasters
Martin Luther Miller
Thomas Harney III
INDIAN SKIRMISHES (1785-1788)
WAR OF 1812 (1812-1814)
Burwell Camp Samuel Westlake Allen Haines Robert Powers
MEXICAN WAR (1846-1848)
William S. Harney Samuel Martin Flournoy
CIVIL WAR (1861-1865)
CONFEDERATE ARMY = C and UNION ARMY = U
Seaborn Camp (C)
Caleb F. Haines (U)
Thomas M. Camp (C)
Daniel M. Miller (U)
William L. Camp (C)
David E. Miller (U)
Thomas Favors (C)
Jeremiah Miller (U)
William M. Hendrix (C)John McMasters (C)
Alfred F. Rutledge (C)
John O. Rutledge (C)
James Reynolds Leland Haines Westlake
EUROPEAN THEATRE and PACIFIC THEATRE
Lonnie B. Hendrix (Army) Ernest C. Jones (Navy)
Luther P. Miller (Navy)
Orville Miller (Marines)
KOREAN WAR (1950-1953)
Ewel Ray Miller
PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN
The Latin motto: “e pluribus unum” means “out of many, one.” It has been used by the government of the United States of America to underscore the fact that the citizens of this country are the descendants of many different peoples. Even so, all of them have been forged into a new, separate and unique identity among the nations of the earth. People of different races, religions, ethnicities and backgrounds came together in a great “melting pot.” The thing that binds them all together is an idea: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
However, many people have dismissed this concept as mythology, one that is not grounded in the reality of modern America. They point to the divisions and tensions that exist in our politics, religions, race relations and cultural life and declare that “e pluribus unum” has never been achieved. Our critics say that America is a collection of mongrels that has not achieved (and never will reach) the “ideal” expressed in our motto.
I am proof that they are wrong. My lineage includes people from England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Scandinavia, Poland, Hungary, Russia and Africa. I am the descendant of kings and commoners, merchants and tradesmen, and rich and poor. I am the offspring of a plantation owner and a sharecropper, a slave owner and an abolitionist, and a master and a slave. I am the descendant of Indian fighters and Indians, Catholics and Protestants,Yankees and Rebels, and Democrats and Republicans. I am the grandson of men and women who worked hard and sacrificed much in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. My nephews, nieces and granddaughter have introduced Mexican heritage into my family. The 2008 nominees of both parties for President of the Unites States, Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, are both distant cousins of mine. Moreover, I am proud of my connection to all of these individuals. Out of many, I am one proud American.
My forefathers were living in the ancient forests that once covered this continent long before any Europeans had thought to venture out onto the Atlantic Ocean. We refer to them now as the Shawnee, Cherokee and Delaware Indians. My forefathers were there at Plymouth and Jamestown. One of my ancestors operated a store at Williamsburg and donated the bell that still hangs in the Old Bruton Parish Church. My forefathers built log cabins in the wilderness and followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky. They fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. An uncle led the charge at Cerro Gordo in the Mexican-American War and fought the Plains Indians when that war was finished. I had many ancestors on both sides of the Civil War, and many of them “gave the last full measure of devotion” in that fight. One of my uncles came home in a wheelchair from World War I. One grandfather served in the European theater and the other (along with two more uncles) served in the Pacific theater of World War II. An uncle helped load body bags with American soldiers onto planes in Korea to send them back to the States. My father stood in line to go to a place called Vietnam when he was tapped to return home and take care of his children. My brother served in the Marines, and I served in the Army during the time of the First Gulf War. My nephew served in Iraq in one of our country’s most recent wars.
Yes, I am “a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam”. I am proud to be a citizen of the greatest nation on the face of the earth, “the shining city on a hill” and “the last, best hope of man.” During this period of hardship and distress, we should all reflect on our great heritage as citizens of the United States of America, and thank God that we have been privileged to be a part of this great experiment in liberty, tolerance and democracy. Hence, we should all reaffirm the absolute truth of our motto: e pluribus unum!
A Word About Genealogy
Different people study the subject of their ancestry for different reasons. For too many, however, I believe the pursuit is rooted in a basic human need to identify themselves with a group that is somehow superior to everyone else. People use social status, wealth, appearance, intellect, religion, nationality, ethnicity, ancestry and a whole host of other things to distinguish themselves from their fellows. What I am talking about goes far beyond any attempt to establish a sense of identity (which the study of ones’ ancestry can certainly be instrumental in doing).
I am talking about people who use their “pedigree” to prove that they are more than unique. These people point to their ancestral roots to say that they are better than other people. It is my hope that none of you will ever fall into this category of genealogists. The fact that you are a descendant of King Philip IV of France does not make you any better than anyone else. In fact, Philip was not a very nice person. Likewise, Grandma Ennis had what many would consider a very humble background, but her character and personality were sterling. Moreover, an in depth study of your family tree will do more to convince you of the interconnectedness of the human family than it will to establish any “special” identity.
Also, it is important to remember that everyone else has a claim on our more famous ancestors. While it is a legitimate source of pride to be a physical descendant of the Emperor Charlemagne, it is also clear that everyone in the Western World can claim him as a forefather. We can all legitimately claim George Washington as the father of our country. In the same way, many historical figures have many “spiritual” descendants. Lincoln, Roosevelt, Churchill and Longfellow are community property. In many instances, our cultural inheritance from these individuals is of much more importance than any physical inheritance we may have derived from them (which can be very remote over many generations).
In writing these things, I am attempting to put some perspective on the study of genealogy. Your ancestry is part of your identity, and it is a source of legitimate pride. However, your ancestry does not and can not establish a pre-eminence over anyone. In the final analysis, your own character and individual accomplishments are the only factors that can cause you to excel above your peers or earn their admiration and praise.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a word or two about genealogists (professional and amateur). Although it is hard to generalize about any group, I think it is safe to say that we (I’m including myself) have more than our fair share of eccentricities. People develop some very interesting perspectives and ideas about this subject. Some genealogists are down right proprietary when it comes to their research. These people are selfish about sharing pictures and information, as if what they had uncovered was now somehow their own personal property.
Likewise, a good many genealogists take both themselves and their work way too seriously. Some genealogists love to pick apart the work of others. These individuals love to point out lack of documentation, improper procedure, grammatical and punctuation errors or other inaccuracies. There is also a tendency on the part of some to be condescending to those who are not as “professional” or “scholarly” as themselves. Such individuals appear to seat themselves on high and judge the lesser mortals below them. Thus they often regard their work and resulting pedigrees to be more substatial and impressive than the efforts of others.
For those of you who may be inspired to take up the task of telling your family's story, you should be advised that there are profound rewards and disappointments associated with such a pursuit (just as there are with any other task or interest worth pursuing). First, you will be joining the ranks of a distinguished and motley crew of storytellers. Nations have their historians, and tribes and families have their storytellers. Even so, while some historians and storytellers have achieved honor and renown among the people whom they have sought to represent, many others have been ignored or reviled by them. In short, you should not expect to find everyone willing to share your interest and enthusiasm for this subject. If you will resolve beforehand to derive satisfaction from the joy of your own pursuit, then you will be much happier with your finished product. Do not expect others to provide this for you. If you happen to find some gratitude or appreciation for what you are doing along the way, consider it a pleasant surprise and bonus.
A word of caution is also appropriate regarding your attitude about the inviolable nature of that research. We must all remember that our ancestors were subject to the same human frailties that afflict all of us today. In telling their stories, their memories were not always clear or accurate. In some instances, there were reasons to intentionally mislead or lie about those stories. Infidelity, ethnic identity or persecution can be strong motives for misrepresenting the truth. Fortunately, the science of genetic testing has provided a way to get around some of these deceptions. However, even in this instance, we must remember that this science is new, and is also subject to future modifications of its techniques, procedures and results. Hence, we should all strive to keep an open mind with regard to the story of our ancestry. We must be willing to discard the old and embrace the new. The truth must always be our goal, whatever it may be.
Although I have probably just stepped on a few toes, I have included these observations for your benefit – just in case any of you ever decide to take up the task of furthering this work. You will run into these attitudes, and there is always the danger that you could fall into one of these mind sets. I hope that you will always remember that your work is community property, sharing is good, you are not the epitome of professionalism and you are the same degree of human as everyone else around you.
Understanding Ancestry and Familial Relationships
It is astounding just how ignorant most of us are regarding our ancestry and familial relationships. I cannot count the number of times I have heard someone proclaim that this aunt or that uncle has researched their family tree. My first question is always ‘which part of his/her family tree he/she is referring to?’ After all, his/her father and mother also had a father and mother, who also each had a father and mother and so on back into antiquity. Every one is the product of four grandparents, eight great grandparents, sixteen great great grandparents, thirty two great great great grandparents – well you get the picture. Each one of these represents a different branch of the family tree. Every mother and grandmother had a maiden name before she was married – a surname as distinct and rich in history as the one you and I inherited from our fathers. Hence, even if one of your relatives has taken up the task of tracing your family, his/her work represents only one branch or line of a much more complex family tree.
When my oldest daughter was in high school, she made the comment in class that Chief Justice John Marshall was her second cousin. “That’s impossible,” proclaimed her teacher to the amusement of the class, “he lived two hundred years ago.” Even this ‘highly educated’ person was completely ignorant about how familial relationships are reckoned. Likewise, I find that a majority of people are completely oblivious to how to reckon a cousin’s relationship to themselves. What most people refer to as first, second or third cousins are either completely wrong or inadequate – and do not even try to bring once, twice or thrice removed into the conversation!
For this reason, I will attempt to explain the relationships that have been made a part of my research (and consequently appear on this page): Your FIRST COUSIN is the son/daughter of your aunt/uncle. Your FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED would be the grandson/daughter of your aunt/uncle. Your FIRST COUSIN TWICE REMOVED would be the great grandson/daughter of your aunt/uncle and so on down the line. Your children and the children of your first cousin would be SECOND COUSINS. Your grandchildren and your first cousin’s grandchildren would be THIRD COUSINS and so on down the line. In all cases, the degree of kinship that you share with a cousin harkens back to your shared descent from a common ancestor.
Another common occurence born of ignorance and/or envy is the dismissal of familial relationships that have been researched by amateur and professional genealogists. When kinship has been established with another person, I have often heard someone proclaim, “Oh well, we’re all related somehow.” Although the statement is undoubtedly true, it is also evident that most people are (or would be) unable to establish their connection to the same individual. Everyone in the Western World may be a descendant of Charlemagne, but can you demonstrate your descent from him? We may all be cousins, but can you demonstrate your kinship with George Washington? Statements like the one above are often born of indifference, jealousy or envy and only serve to cheapen and undermine a legitimate point of pride in the pursuit of one’s family tree.
Finally, it should be remembered that familial relationships are not always defined by shared blood or genetics. Family is often modified or defined by marriage or simply by love relationships. A person with whom one does not share any obvious genetic connection can have a very profound impact on one’s family. Likewise, sometimes blood is all that we share with an individual. Although it is regarded as an inscrutable characteristic, love is probably the most important factor in the story of any family.